Batgirl Movie Won’t Be Released: Why Warner Bros. DC Movie Won’t Debut

The death of “Batgirl” on Tuesday sent instant shockwaves through Hollywood. The film — with a budget of $75 million that has grown to $90 million due to COVID-related overruns — had finished filming months ago and was in test screenings as directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (“Bad Boys for Life, Ms. Marvel) went through the post-production process. In the Heights star Leslie Grace has given several interviews detailing her excitement at taking on the title role and working with co-stars Michael Keaton (as Batman), JK Simmons (as her character’s father, Commissioner Gordon ) and Brendan Fraser (as the villain Firefly).

In other words, the film was almost done and already building awareness among fans. Why would Warner Bros. Discovery throw it all away?

According to sources with knowledge of the situation, the most likely reason: taxes.

Multiple sources indicate that “Batgirl” was made under a different regime at Warner Bros., headed by Jason Kilar and Ann Sarnoff, that was solely focused on building its streaming service, HBO Max. Those efforts included Kilar’s infamous decision to simultaneously release the studio’s entire 2021 theatrical schedule on the streamer, which helped build the subscriber base but also jeopardized the studio’s reputation for high-caliber talent (although many agents and stars privately appreciated the move, than the companies paid generous premiums as a make-nice).

Even before David Zaslav took the reins of newly formed Warner Bros. Discovery as CEO this spring, the executive embarked on a widely publicized listening tour to repair the company’s relationship with the creative community. As part of that effort, Zaslav has made no secret of reversing Kilar’s strategy and committing to bringing feature films to theaters before they appear on HBO Max.

Batgirl found itself on the bad end of that decision, apparently neither big enough to feel worthy of a major theatrical release nor small enough to make commercial sense in an increasingly cutthroat streaming landscape. Spending the money to expand the scope of Batgirl for theatrical releases — plus the $30 million to $50 million needed for domestic marketing and the tens of millions more needed for a global launch — would have them Spending on the film could nearly double, insiders say. This was a non-starter at a company newly focused on belt-tightening and the bottom line. (Speakers for Warner Bros. and Warner Bros. Discovery declined to comment on this story.)

Releasing the film on HBO Max seems like the most obvious solution. Instead, the company has shelved Batgirl — along with the Scoob! sequel — and multiple sources say it will almost certainly require a tax write-off on both films, which is internally viewed as the most financially sound way to recover costs (at least on an accountant’s ledger). You could justify this with a post-merger strategy change.

However, that would mean Warner Bros. can’t monetize either film — no HBO Max debut, no sale to another studio.

What the decision will cost the studio in terms of creative capital remains to be seen. Batgirl Movie Won’t Be Released: Why Warner Bros. DC Movie Won’t Debut

Charles Jones

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